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HeadlinesAugust 20, 2015

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St. Louis: 9 Arrested as Protests Erupt After Police Shoot Black Teen

Aug 20, 2015

At least nine people have been arrested as protests erupted in St. Louis, Missouri, after police shot and killed another African-American teenager Wednesday. St. Louis police say they shot 18-year-old Mansur Ball-Bey after he pointed a gun at officers as he fled from a house where police were executing a search warrant. The shooting came 10 days after the first anniversary of the police killing of Michael Brown in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, which sparked protests nationwide. As protesters gathered to condemn the latest killing, police fired smoke canisters and tear gas, and accused demonstrators of throwing glass bottles and bricks. Images and video overnight showed a car and a building on fire. Activists and clergy condemned the police response as overly aggressive. Reverend Renita Lamkin told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “There has to be a better way, but the better way is not to terrorize an already terrorized community.”

3 Firefighters Killed, Troops Called in, as Wildfires Rage Across West

Aug 20, 2015

In Washington state, three firefighters have been killed and four others injured as wildfires continue to rage across the Western United States. The firefighters from the U.S. Forest Service were reportedly killed after fire overtook their vehicle following an accident near the towns of Twisp and Winthrop. All residents of both towns have been ordered to evacuate. Meanwhile, the Idaho-based National Interagency Fire Center has called in 200 active-duty military troops to fight wildfires, marking the first time the agency has mobilized the military for firefighting in nearly a decade.


Report: Global Warming Has Worsened CA Drought by up to 27%

Aug 20, 2015

This comes as a new study confirms global warming has measurably worsened the record drought in California, which is fueling wildfires there. The study in the journal Geophysical Research Letters confirms rising temperatures are sucking water out of plants and soil, worsening the drought by as much as 27 percent.

Egypt: ISIL-Linked Group Detonates Car Bomb Outside Cairo Courthouse

Aug 20, 2015

In Egypt, a militant group linked to ISIL has claimed responsibility for a car bombing outside a courthouse in a Cairo suburb that wounded 29 people Thursday morning. The group, known as the Sinai Province, says the bombing was retribution for the execution of six of its members in May. The executed members had been convicted of carrying out an attack that killed two army officers in 2014. The attack Thursday comes after the group said last week it had executed a Croatian hostage.

North and South Korea Exchange Fire as Tensions Rise

Aug 20, 2015

In South Korea, residents have been ordered to evacuate an area of its border with North Korea, after the countries exchanged fire Thursday. South Korea’s defense minister says the crossfire began when North Korea fired at a military unit, prompting retaliation from the south. He says North Korea then launched a projectile at the town of Yeoncheon, which lies northwest of Seoul, where loudspeakers were broadcasting anti-North propaganda.

Yemen: U.N. Condemns U.S.-Backed Airstrikes on Port City of Hodeidah

Aug 20, 2015

In news from Yemen, the United Nations has condemned the U.S.-backed, Saudi-led airstrikes on the port city of Hodeidah. U.N. aid chief Stephen O’Brien called the strikes a violation of international law and warned they would worsen the humanitarian crisis. The port city has been a key area in the delivery of humanitarian aid, although the Saudi-led blockade has slowed the delivery of food and medical supplies. O’Brien spoke Wednesday.

Stephen O’Brien: “I was shocked by what I saw. The civilian population is bearing the brunt of the conflict. A shocking four out of five Yemenis require humanitarian assistance, and nearly 1.5 million people are internally displaced. More than 1,000 children have been killed or injured, and the number of young people recruited or used as fighters is increasing.”

Germany Approves $95B Greek Bailout as Greece Privatizes 14 Airports

Aug 20, 2015

The German Parliament has voted to approve a $95 billion bailout package for Greece. The agreement has already been approved by the Greek Parliament, although nearly a third of lawmakers from the left-leaning Syriza party voted against the bill. The bailout requires the Greek government to impose harsh austerity measures and to privatize some of the country’s assets. Earlier this week, in one such privatization deal, the government agreed to sell the rights to operate 14 regional airports to a German company.

Israel: Supreme Court Suspends Detention of Palestinian Hunger Striker

Aug 20, 2015

In news from Israel, the Supreme Court has suspended the indefinite detention of a Palestinian prisoner who has been on a two-month hunger strike that has caused brain damage. The court said Mohammed Allan does not pose a security threat at this time, given his deteriorated condition. A medical examiner determined Wednesday Allan suffered brain damage from the hunger strike, although it is not clear whether the damage will be permanent. Allan’s lawyer said the decision to release Allan should have come earlier.

Sawsan Zahar: “This should have been done already two days ago, when we were here in the first hearing in front of the Supreme Court and asked for his immediate release, because, first of all, he didn’t impose any security threat because of his medical situation, and, second of all, second of all, in order to enable him to get the treatment and save his life and prevent the brain damage that now we are looking at.”

Last month, Israel’s Parliament authorized the force-feeding of prisoners on hunger strike. It also authorized prison sentences of up to 20 years for people throwing stones. The United Nations says these measures threaten to worsen an “already-precarious human rights situation.”

U.N. Reports New Allegations of Sexual Abuse by Peacekeepers in CAR

Aug 20, 2015

In news from the Central African Republic, the United Nations has reported new allegations about sexual abuse by peacekeeping forces. Soldiers are accused of raping three women. One of them is a minor. The case follows accusations earlier this month by Amnesty International that peacekeeping forces were responsible for the rape a 12-year-old girl and the death of a child and his father. French soldiers deployed as peacekeepers have also been accused of trading sex with young boys for food and money at a displaced persons’ camp. The director of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic resigned under pressure earlier this month. A United Nations spokesperson announced the latest accusations on Wednesday.

Vannina Maestracci: “A new series of disturbing allegations of misconduct have recently come to light. The events allegedly took place in recent weeks. These new allegations concern a report that three young females were raped by three members of a MINUSCA military contingent. The allegations were reported to the mission’s human rights division on the 12th of August by the families of the three women.”

South Africa: Justice Minister Intervenes to Keep Pistorius Behind Bars

Aug 20, 2015

In news from South Africa, the justice minister has stepped in to block the release of Olympic and Paralympic runner Oscar Pistorius, who was due to be released after 10 months following his conviction of manslaughter for killing his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. In a rare move, Justice Minister Michael Masutha said the parole board’s decision was premature, and ordered an examination of the case. Prosecutors have also appealed a court’s decision last year not to convict Pistorius of murder.

Medical Experts Warn New Female Libido Pill Carries Serious Risks

Aug 20, 2015

In the United States, public health advocates are raising concerns about the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the first prescription drug to increase women’s sexual desire. Flibanserin is made by Sprout Pharmaceuticals, whose executives have previously run afoul of the FDA for their misleading and inaccurate marketing of an earlier product. The medication’s approval was aggressively pushed by an advocacy group called Even the Score, which was funded by the drugmaker and other pharmaceutical companies. Some health advocates have raised concerns about potentially serious risks, including low blood pressure and fainting. In a statement, Dr. Sidney Wolfe of Public Citizen said, “Unfortunately, we haven’t heard the last of this drug. Expect future news to include stories of women who are harmed needlessly by flibanserin and the eventual agency call for the manufacturer to pull it from pharmacy shelves.”

U.S. Court: SEC Cannot Force Companies to Disclose “Conflict Minerals”

Aug 20, 2015

An appeals court has ruled the Securities and Exchange Commission cannot force companies to disclose whether minerals in their products come from the war-torn country the Democratic Republic of Congo because the mandatory labeling would violate the companies’ freedom of speech. Human rights groups have long pushed for mandatory labeling of so-called “conflict minerals” in order to allow consumers and investors to avoid fueling the bloody conflict through the purchase of their products. The mandatory labeling became law as part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act. But this week, a court ruled in favor of corporate trade groups seeking to overturn the measure.

Ecuador: Indigenous Peoples Opposed to Oil Drilling Drive Out Soldiers

Aug 20, 2015

In news from Ecuador, hundreds of indigenous protesters have forced police and soldiers to retreat from the Amazon town of Macas in an ongoing conflict over oil and gas drilling in the region. The indigenous Shuar and Achuar peoples have been organizing to block oil extraction on their lands. They say President Rafael Correa has refused to consult them in the decision over drilling. On Wednesday, about 200 protesters wielding spears sent police and soldiers fleeing from the town.

Lawsuit Accuses Costco of Selling Shrimp Harvested by Slave Labor

Aug 20, 2015

In California, law firms have filed a class action lawsuit against Costco and its Thai seafood supplier, arguing that the company has knowingly sold shrimp whose harvesting relies on rampant human trafficking and forced labor. Men who have escaped from boats in this supply chain have testified to beatings, torture, execution-style killings and grueling 20-hour shifts. The suit seeks to block Costco from selling these shrimp unless they are labeled as the produce of slavery.

Clinton Confirms Emails on Private Server were Classified

Aug 20, 2015

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign has confirmed emails on the private server she used while she was secretary of state contain material that is now classified. Clinton has repeatedly said she did not receive material marked classified. Her campaign says the material was classified retroactively, making Clinton the “passive recipient of unwitting information that subsequently became deemed as classified.” Meanwhile, a newly publicized letter from Clinton’s attorney confirms her emails and all other data on her computer server were wiped clean before it was handed over to federal officials.

Jimmy Carter to Discuss His Cancer at News Conference Today

Aug 20, 2015

Former President Jimmy Carter is due to discuss his health at a news conference in Atlanta, Georgia, today. The move comes eight days after Carter announced liver surgery had unveiled cancer that had spread to other parts of his body.

Somerville, MA Officials Hang “Black Lives Matter” Banner at City Hall

Aug 20, 2015

City officials in Somerville, Massachusetts, have hung a banner with the words “Black Lives Matter” on the front of City Hall. According to The Boston Globe, Mayor Joe Curtatone worked with Black Lives Matter Cambridge to create the banner. The mayor said the move was “a very clear statement we are making to the community that we recognize that structural racism exists in our society; it exists in our public and private institutions.”

Louis Stokes, Ohio’s First African-American Congressman, Dies at 90

Aug 20, 2015

And Louis Stokes, the first African-American congressmember from Ohio and a leading advocate for the poor, has died at the age of 90. Stokes served in the House of Representatives for three decades. He led a special investigation into the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. which concluded they may have involved conspiracies. Stokes was also a founder of the Congressional Black Caucus. He died of lung and brain cancer Tuesday at home in Ohio.

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